Contributed by Dr. Amy Whittington, Trilogy’s Naturopathic Physician
It’s the New Year! The holiday parties are behind us, but unfortunately, after all the indulgences, an average of two pounds of weight gain is still very much with us! Even worse than the weight gain are the post-holiday sugar cravings that lend to increased inflammation, disturbed sleep, and sluggishness. Rather than long and drawn out New Year’s resolutions that fade by spring, I suggest a short-term goal that will quickly get you back on the health wagon.
A short-term cleanse (we call ours the RESET program because it’s like hitting the RESET button) can help to decrease bad cravings and increase good ones, promote sleep, decrease inflammation, more often than not, in a short amount of time. In just 10 days you can put those holiday woes behind you and start out the New Year feeling great.
The first thing to note is there are a lot of different programs called “cleanses” or “detoxes” and many of them are fine and meet the goals of what we want a nutrition and benefit-packed 10 days to include. Many others, however, include dangerous components such as long stretches of fasting, extreme water intake, or the use of liquid only for several days. Also, it is not necessary to include a lot of new supplements and detoxes that claim to flush the gall bladder or the colon and should be avoided. Keep in mind, too, diet changes are not for everyone, even for short amounts of time, and if you suffer from any chronic disease, any plans to alter your nutrition should be run by your treating physician.
What should your 10 days to reset your body look like? It should look like a very clean diet. I typically have patients avoid sugars, sugar substitutes, processed foods, animal product (other than fish), common food intolerances, caffeine and alcohol. The cessation of caffeine can be rough for many of us, and its worth weaning from it over several days prior to your cleanse. Sugar withdrawal is surprising to many because it can cause fatigue and irritability over the first few days of the process.
What you should focus on during the 10 days is a wide variety of colorful vegetables, salads, fish, and a moderate amount of fruit. Your protein, in addition to or instead of the fish, should come from legumes like beans and peas. In our 10 day RESET, we have patients use a rice/pea based protein powder that includes herbal anti-inflammatories, blood sugar support, and liver promoting nutrients to help us to meet the health goals for the 10 days, but if you don’t have access to a provider that can get one of these medical foods for you, you can use a plain protein and still get many of the benefits.
An advantage to clean eating is when you are eating all of the right foods, you typically don’t have to monitor calorie or macronutrient content. Here are the keys:
Avoid sugar, sugar substitutes, and processed foods. Don’t panic. Depending on your health history, you’ll likely be able to safely moderate small amounts of sugar into your diet over the long run, but this short avoidance can reap great benefits. Many of us consume way too much sugar, and a short hiatus can be a great way to remind yourself how good you feel when you don’t overindulge. Sugar is disruptive to our systems. It contributes to disease and aging; it disrupts mood, energy, sleep, and immunity. Sugar addictions can be formed simply out of bad habits or in a subconscious effort to improve mood or energy. During your 10-day program, try to get outside for light exercise to replace the stimulus that sugar might be providing to you.
Processed foods are often filled with hidden sugars and any effort to remove sugar should also include an avoidance of processed foods. Simply put, most of the foods you will eat won’t have a label, and if they do, you should recognize everything that it states as a food.
Sugar substitutes, even the natural ones, also need to be avoided for an effective cleanse to help reset your taste buds. Sugar substitutes wreak nearly as much havoc on your metabolism as sugar does, and should be avoided for any weight loss plan and for long-term health goals. After a rough first few days, you will see better energy, better sleep, better immunity, and you’ll likely be working your way to a slimmer waistline.
Avoid animal products. For the long haul, you do not need to become a vegan, but the fact is that animal products including meats, dairy, and eggs lead to more inflammation in the body than other protein sources like fish. Many of us consume too much animal product, and a short, complete avoidance can give way to a significant decrease in the inflammation that might be contributing to your aches and pains.
Avoid the most common food intolerances. In an effort to also improve digestion along with other symptoms that can be attributed to possible food intolerances, such as headaches, skin disruptions, digestive disturbance and fatigue, your cleanse should include the avoidance of the most common foods that can cause systemic reactions. Soy, wheat/grains, eggs, chocolate, and dairy are the most commonly reactive foods. I highly encourage that you remove all of these for your cleanse to see if they perhaps cause you symptoms.
Do eat fuel-efficient and liver-cleansing foods. Avoiding processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol will offer a break to the detoxifying process of your liver, and you can capitalize on this more by consuming foods that can support the liver detoxification process like cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower), artichokes, leafy greens, and leafy herbs, such as thyme and parsley. High fiber foods such as apples, pears, and legumes will help to move toxins out of your body.
Good fats from olive and avocado oil are great to cook with during your RESET and can help you to form new and healthier food preparation habits if you aren’t already using these.
If you can give your body the post-holiday present of clean eating for a short amount of time, your body will pay you back with increased energy, better sleep, and less pain. You should also find it much easier to reach for a salad or fish instead of a sugary treat or fried foods, which after as few as 10 days begin to sound not so great. You can return to meat, dairy, coffee, and alcohol all in moderation if you like, all while paying attention to how you feel with each addition. Happy RESET and Happy New Year!
Stay healthy & be well!
-Amy Whittington, NMD